The trails and trials of Moab are behind us now, and all that remains is the long ride home, back to California. For as much “what if” planning that went into our preparation for this trip, we are surprisingly unscathed by our off-roading and touring adventures thus far.
I mean, Tim probably has a hairline fracture or severely torn ligament in his right wrist — a reward for an epic bike-before-body save on the Super Ténéré — but he continues to get punches on his Man Card by soldiering on with little complaint. Overall, our spirits are good.
Getting some greatly deserved slumber, we awoke to see that the rain has not left us from the previous day. It is coming down in waves, and making the process of getting out of our sleeping bags and tents a very undesirable prospect.
We have roughly 500 miles of riding planned for the day, as we plan to back-track out of Moab to get onto SR-95 South — our last great riding route of the trip. The excursion is a bit out of our way home, but all reports suggest it to be another epic ride, and for bonus points it will bring us close to the Grand Canyon, another sight Tim and I were hoping to see on this Broventure.
But before we can do that, we must first say goodbye to Moab, with its pantheon of geological wonder, and the trails and road that we navigated to see them.
Our moment to depart came with a brief lull in the rain, and by brief I mean the last three minutes were spent frantically tying bags to the bikes, as the rain poured all over us again. By the time we got to the junction of SR-24 and SR-95 in Hanksville though, the rain had subsided, and the Goblin Valley Desert area was showing itself to be a more hospitable locale than it had been on our last encounter. Now with cloudy skies and mild heat, thing were looking good.
The next 130 miles would take us out of the desert, over the Colorado River, past Natural Bridges, and into Mexican Hat — at least that was the plan. Riding through a biker’s paradise of apexes, the road wound with the river and its tributaries, while the cloudless skies reflected our sunny disposition to the route’s bounties. As we approached the halfway point for the day though, the rain returned, and in full-force.
We were used to the water by now, having seen our fair bit of weather so far on this trip, but the rain we encountered as we approached Natural Bridges National Monument was something completely different. Flooding the roads for what would be our next 100 miles, we watched sediment-colored rivers wash down the hillsides, as we pushed through squalls of rain, with a healthy dose of side-sweeping blasts of wind.
With our concentration 100% on the road ahead, we missed what would have been some stunning scenery, on any other day, and with any other weather. Finally emerging at the junction of SR-261, which would take us to Mexican Hat, a group of motorcyclists, who we had been leap-frogging vistas with earlier, informed us that the road was impassible due to landslides and debris. Tack on another hour of riding to our already long day to Flagstaff. Uggh.
“Cold” is the only word to describe the next 200 miles. Traveling through the “Indian land” of Arizona, we were treated to the spectacular landscapes and depressing municipalities. The contrast was stark, as one’s mind is left to wonder what the first settlers to this area must have thought when they saw the towering rocks that were before us, cutting into the low-hanging clouds. They surely must have felt that this was a special place, and struggled to find understanding as to how something so beautiful could simply just exist like this.
Fast-forward a couple thousand years, add in a couple small pox blankets, and a few more empty promises filled with appeasement, and we have the cities that pock SR-160 with their dilapidated buildings, Native American squalor, and a “nation” that feels anything but. We don’t talk much about the earliest parts of history in the American landscape, but a quick drive through these settlements paints a depressing mood, what with their roadside jewelry stands, tax free booze and cigarettes, and out-of-place casinos.
Taking a quick dinner in Kayenta, Tim and I quietly ate our meals at the world’s loneliest McDonald’s, all the while watching a 90-year-old Navajo woman discretely offered handmade jewelry from the driver’s seat of her circa 1990 rundown American sedan, complete with a flat front tire and what could have been all her worldly belongings in the backseat.
We chased the sun to the horizon over the next 150 miles into Flagstaff without stopping. Checking into a hotel, hot showers, hot food, and cold drinks were a priority. The 500 miles of our trip that day had given us a lot to think about, but that would have to wait until tomorrow. All we want now to do is sleep.